What I want from my union

I have the utmost respect for unions.

I don’t blame teacher’s unions for problems in education.

That being said, I do believe there are problems.

Obviously, there are funding problems. I’ve seen those first hand. I work on the front lines of education, a rural school on an Indian reservation in an area of extreme poverty – I mean third-world caliber poverty. 90+% of my students are ethnic minorities. 90+% qualify for free and reduced lunch. 30% can be classified as homeless. We have one of the smallest levies our the state. The kids absolutely need and deserve more funding.

Yet, I know we can do better.

With the resources we have.

With the staff we have.

We must do better.

Students trudge from class to class learning from boring, outdated textbooks (mine, which I haven’t used in years, are from 1990 – they are older than my students). They are bored to tears by [lecture, worksheet, test, repeat]- style instruction in many classes.

It’s time to break the mould!

Let’s crush this outdated model and banish it to the recesses of our collective memories to become only the fodder of bad horror movies and lame teenage soap operas.

But, how?

I want my union to stop being a union and become something more.

Before it’s too late.

The major teacher’s unions, the NEA and the AFT must wrest control of the situation away from politicians and business interests. Rebrand ourselves as true professional associations lest our associations be destroyed.

Take the power back.

  • Set standards for effective instruction based on research and member collective wisdom.
  • Set standards for association membership.
  • Evaluate our own members.
  • Prescribe assistance for those who need it.
  • Mentor new teachers.
  • Design and facilitate effective professional development.
  • Revoke membership for those who choose not to improve.
  • Protect those who do.

Let’s not let people who have never taught a day in their life chart the course of education reform. It’s time for preemptive action. The opportunity won’t linger forever. Reform is proceeding forward one way or the other.

The question we must ask ourselves is this:

Are we driving the reform train or waiting on the platform, hoping it doesn’t pass us by?

Important conversations

survey says....

survey says....

I took a survey 2 weeks ago about our school.  It covered a wide variety of questions, but one stood out to me:

The teachers in my school meet as a whole staff to discuss ways to improve teaching and learning.

I’m sad to say, I clicked the radio button for ‘Never’ and moved on to the next question.  I didn’t even deliberate.  There was no doubt in my mind that the answer was ‘Never.’

I brought this to the attention of the staff last Friday while leading part of our professional development.  I saw some nodding heads around the room, as well as a few blank stares.

The real epiphany, though, was when I led them into this conversation.  I led a socratic seminar focused around the question, “if you were a student at our school, what would your education to be like?”

The level of emotion in this conversation was palpable.  Many people expressed strong feelings and opinions that had clearly been pent up for years.  Several people shed tears.

This was an important conversation.

Yet, now that the raw emotion has been released and tears have flowed; now that people have had a chance to vent –  the real conversation has to begin…

What are we going to do about it?